March 15, 2008

The Decline of the PC

I'm a PC gamer. I insist that this is true despite owning and using a Wii, Xbox 360, and Nintendo DS.

I'm mostly a PC gamer because I grew up on PC games. I never owned a NES, my Genesis broke fairly quickly, and I skipped the PS1/N64 generation. Meanwhile, my mom (a teacher) bought me plenty of educational games while my brother smuggled me the good stuff (Command and Conquer, Starcraft, Civilization 2). I was absolutely at home with installing, configuring, tweaking, and playing on the PC.

And for a long time there were legitimately good reasons to focus one's energies on the PC. Multiplayer gaming, modding, better graphics, and mouse control were enough to convince me that the PC was where it was at.

But despite my history with the PC and ensuing fondness for the platform, I've got to acknowledge that consoles have caught up. PCs might offer more customizability, but they break much more often. Mods and multiplayer are available on the console, and in a more centralized and easy-to-use format. PCs can still offer better graphics, but only at an exorbitant price.

Penny Arcade recently wrote about this. It's getting very difficult for us PC gamers to maintain that our platform really is the objective best, and gamers who care about playing good games above all else are going to end up buying and playing consoles.

Aside from the upsetting experience of being on the losing side of a fanboy war, I don't think that the loss of the PC's supremacy is an especially bad thing. The only danger comes from the possibility of losing good games in the transition. RTS games are more suited to a mouse-based control scheme. C&C3 tried to break from this, but could Supreme Commander switch in the same way? And if not, does that mean that nobody will be willing to make games that deviate from established console control schemes? And if future console generations take the Wii route and don't much upgrade the hardware, will game technology stall?

I accept that consoles are going to continue to encroach on the PC's old territory, but as long as it's still financially viable, and as long as developers continue to release AAA games on the PC, I'll stick with the old platform, if only so that I can use a mouse and justify my SLI rig.

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